Such stuff as dreams are made on

The Tempest (shake & stir theatre company)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

January 20 – January 21

Shake & stir theatre company has created a lively adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s final works in a whirlwind “The Tempest” that condenses the Bard’s five acts into a digestible running time of under 90 minutes. Of course, some characters and themes of the original are sacrificed, however, there is enough skill and artistry on display to ensure that the show still feels satisfying. This is quite the achievement, considering that the production is showcasing the talent of the top 30 competitors from the Inaugural Queensland Youth Shakespeare Festival.

“The Tempest” is one of the final plays William Shakespeare ever wrote, which brings additional meaning to wizard Prospero’s audience farewell upon relinquishing his magic powers. And shake & stir’s Matt Walsh’s performance as Prospero is one of the strongest points of the production. Well-meaning, rather than bitter, he is more father than wizard, which suites the modern touches that punctuate this interpretation. Indeed, his throw-away parent lament of “teenagers” speaks volumes as to the universality of Shakespeare’s enduring themes. And to see a predominantly youthful audience empathetically engaged by Miranda (India Oswin)’s teenage angst reminds of the excitement of Shakespeare’s insight into humanity and the beauty of mankind. For, as Miranda herself notes, “how beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”

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This is a trademark shake & stir show with modern mentions of Bieber, Twilight and even a Campbell Newman jibe peppering the performance and an early intertexual nod to Othello. The on-stage band, too, adds to the freshness of the production, however, the loud music and effects of the thunderous opening storm scene makes it difficult to hear all of the ensemble dialogue. Magic is created through simple means, allowing the spirits (four Ariels, who work wonderfully together), monsters, lovers and fools on stage every opportunity to reveal in the fantastical story of Prospero’s plot to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place.

The comic interactions of King’s jester Trinculo and drunken steward Stephano add to the boisterousness of the production. While Liam Soden’s drunken steward is, at times, a staggering, slurring caricature, Lachlan Sutherland gives a consistent, committed performance in understanding that any Shakespearean jester should be realised in gesture and facial expression, as much as in speech. When it comes to words, however, as Miranda’s wooer Ferdinand, Ryan Hodson’s dialogue is delivered with an aplomb that does justice to the poetry of the Bard’s words.

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Bathed in Jason Glenwright’s ethereal lighting hues of green and blue, the stage is a spectacle of dreamlike quality, enticing the audience into contemplation of the play’s most famous pronunciation that “we are such stuff as dreams are made on” …dreams realised, perhaps in the escape of the theatre and the experience of differing interpretations of seminal shows such as this.

Photos by Dylan Evans Photography c/o shake & stir theatre company

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